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Republicans Plan for the Midterms? Whatever Sticks to the Wall

Line of people at a polling station
Via Shutterstock

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has been on the receiving end of the GOP's attempt to find a boogeyman to rally against in the 2022 elections. 

Republicans recently went on a tear when they learned that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg went on paternity leave after the birth of his twins with husband Chasten in August. They took the opportunity to try and pin the blame of the supply chain crisis on the fact that Buttigieg, a gay man with kids, wasn't at this desk.

Untangling this monster of a crisis is not up to one man. It's up to dozens of governments, hundreds of corporations, and thousands upon thousands of laborers who must now be on the job 24/7. It's not that Republicans aren't aware of that reality, but that wasn't the point of pointing at Buttigieg.

Their deceitful tactic is actually about laying the groundwork for the GOP strategy around the midterms in 2022. The product shortages are likely to carry through next year, according to logistics experts, and who better to be the fall guy for Republicans than the homosexual Secretary that is new dad Pete.

It's all too easy and can be wrapped up in a 30-second ad by the GOP. "You can't get the things you want, the food you need, and the luxuries you deserve. And it's all because the transportation secretary went on a long paternity leave, with his husband."

Then the picture of Pete and Chasten gazing into each other's eyes while holding their twins will flash onscreen. Oh, it's all gone so terribly wrong. Gay men can't handle a crisis, they shouldn't be in the cabinet, and they shouldn't be married, and worst of all, gay men should not have children - that's the unsubtle message.

Recently, self-proclaimed father of the year Senator Tom Cotton went after Randi Weingarten, a former New York teacher who now serves as president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teacher's unions in the country. He said on Fox News, "Randi Weingarten does not even have children of her own. What in the hell does she know about raising and teaching kids?" And, he described the union president as "a joke."

Weingarten fired back, "Did I misread this or did Tom Cotton just say any teacher who is not also a parent shouldn't be able to teach? Really?" she tweeted. "Is he now disqualifying every nun from teaching? Or is this simply a new divisive & hateful homophobic slur against LGBTQ+ teachers?"

It's the latter, and it's taking a page from the Buttigieg brouhaha. I spoke to Weingarten, a lesbian, who also has stepchildren and step-grandchildren, which of course Cotton failed to mention. Did she agree that his missive toward her was part of a larger GOP strategy heading into the midterms?

"Yes, of course, it's part of a larger plan," she told me during a phone call on Monday. "What they are doing is trying a bunch of different things, and seeing what works. It's the proverbial saying, throw it against the wall and see what sticks, and this is no time to turn the other cheek, which is why I responded so quickly and so forcefully."

Weingarten says that what she really fears is how the GOP is starting to go after trans kids in their quest to divide and scare. "They really are preying on trans children, and I'm really fearful of the repercussions of that. It's all meant to incite fear, particularly resurrecting the bathroom argument which is repugnant."

"I also believe that you're right about the Buttigieg incident. We all thought that we had fought and won the culture war, but here we go again. They will most certainly go after gay marriage, gay parents, and gay teachers. What that actually does is it creates hate and fear in a community. Diversity strengthens communities, and their message is about hate, not love and acceptance. And we have to fight back on that. It is extremely dangerous rhetoric."

When I brought up a story about a school district in Iowa wanting to remove three LGBTQ+ books from a high school library, I asked if in addition to critical race theory, which Virginia governor-elect Glenn Youngkin used to frighten voters, even though no schools in Virginia teach it, if LGBTQ+ issues will also be used to scare parents and school boards?

"Yes. There is no reason to think that the Republicans won't stop at critical race theory. They will most certainly try and make an issue of any LGBTQ+ literature in schools. And that is wrong. We want to make sure kids have legitimate books that give them an opportunity to understand other cultures and other vantage points," Weingarten emphasized. "That's why having books that are diverse is so important. It lets kids see other kids. It exposes them to other kids' issues and struggles."

Weingarten said it's important to introduce all books to kids in the right way. "You need to create a comfort level. Parents and teachers need to work together, and parents trust what their teachers are doing. But parents are really an important piece of kids' education. Everybody needs a voice and has a right to a voice. Schooling needs parents as partners."

Instead, the GOP is pitting parents against teachers, and to Weingarten, that's fraught with peril. "Parents rely on us to care for their children, they trust us to provide the best care and best environment for their kids. That's a huge responsibility. It's also something that teachers take very, very seriously."

"Now, you have one political party that is causing a lot of anger and backlash toward teachers, education systems, and curriculums, which is causing parents to be scared. And that is a very dangerous thing to do since it literally involves the lives of children. Trying to divide parents from teachers is so wrong in the long-term and counter-productive to the kids who are most at risk."

Weingarten said that in the end, we need to be lifting up the health and well-being of kids.

Just as we finished our conversation, the story about Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley's comments to HBO/Axios over the weekend popped up in my newsfeed. And, you want to talk about throwing s*** on the wall to see what sticks. The epitome of masculinity, Hawley said "I think you put together lack of jobs, you put together fatherlessness, you put together the social messages that we teach our kids in school, I think we've got to confront that and its effects."

Hawley's main point was that he was going to make toxic masculinity one of his key political issues because people on "the left" are telling guys like him: "You're part of the problem ... Your masculinity is inherently problematic."

So, in other words, what Hawley wants to do is teach our kids, the alpha-male boys, and subservient little girls in schools that masculinity rules and that boys should be men and girls should be, well, girls, not women.

If it were up to Hawley and Cotton, our schools would disallow transgender kids, ban LGBTQ+ books, fire LGBTQ+ teachers who don't have kids, and make bullying by macho boys of effeminate boys and helpless girls, right.

The GOP wall has lots sticking to it right now, and more to come, and it makes you wonder how much more s***** things are going to get before November 2022.

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John Casey

John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.
John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.